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King & Spalding, LLP v. HHS, No. 16-01616, 2019 WL 3324498 (D.D.C. July 24, 2019) (Mehta, J.)

Date

King & Spalding, LLP v. HHS, No. 16-01616, 2019 WL 3324498 (D.D.C. July 24, 2019) (Mehta, J.)

Re:  Request for records provided to the government concerning medical device company represented by plaintiff

Disposition:  Granting plaintiff's combined cross-motion for summary judgment and motion for reconsideration; denying defendant's motion for summary judgment

  • Exemptions 6 & 7(C):  "[T]he court mistakenly assumed that the lawyers had a personal privacy interest in their names simply because their names appeared in criminal investigative files."  "Upon reconsideration, the court now finds that disclosure of the . . . names [of lawyers who represented a confidential source] would not result in 'an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.'"  The court finds that "disclosure presents none of the threats to personal privacy that courts have recognized as 'unwarranted,' even in a person's professional capacity."  "The attorneys here were not accused of any misconduct and they were not witnesses to alleged wrongdoing."  "Thus, disclosing their names would not result in 'embarrassment and potentially more serious reputational harm.'"  "Nor do Defendants present any evidence (including within the in camera submission) that disclosure would place at risk the lawyers' personal safety or expose them to harassment."  "The lawyers merely represented the confidential source in relaying information to the government, presumably at the direction of their client."  "Thus, the lawyers . . . have little or no privacy interest in their 'representational capacity' as counsel to the confidential source."  "Additionally, lawyers regularly advertise their services on law firm websites and in other marketing material, thereby diminishing any reasonable expectation of personal privacy when acting in their representational capacities."  "With no 'personal privacy interest' at stake, Defendants cannot rely on Exemption 7(C) to withhold the lawyers' names.'"
     
    Additionally, "[t]he court previously allowed Defendants to supplement the record to show that disclosing the law firm name would result in an 'unwarranted invasion of the lawyer’s personal privacy.'"  "Given the court's revised decision holding that the lawyers’ names are not protected from disclosure by a FOIA exemption, there is no basis to withhold the law firm's name."
Court Decision Topic(s)
District Court opinions
Exemption 6
Exemption 7(C)
Updated January 7, 2022